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View Diary: Collapse of The Military--Vietnam's Lesson of What's To Come (75 comments)

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  •  When the Civi's run the Military (4.00)
    My dad, a combo Korea/Vietnam Vet, is a fire breathing conservative (he's a ditto-head, and know to pick political fights with strangers).

    One thing my dad has always said for as long as I can remember, is that he blamed the failures of the Vietnam War on Civilians running the war and not listening to the military leaders.

    Fastforward to today. We have Iraq and a bunch of Civilians running a war and it's clearly a disaster.

    Oddly enough, my dad is now OK with Civilians running the war and not listening to the military leaders.

    Republicans -- and my dad included -- seem to have lost the cognitive dissonance detection gene.

    •  You Always Know... (4.00)
      Precisely how conservatives plan to screw you by listening to their complaints about liberals.

      Activist judges destroying our Constitution?
           Check!
      Bloated budgets driving deficits through the roof?
           Check!
      Civilians micro-managing the military into an unmitigated disaster?
           Check!

      •  I've Been Saying This for Years (none)
        In my terms, we always know what they're doing--or planning--because it's whatever they're accusing us of.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Thu Jan 27, 2005 at 08:16:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oops meant to finish that-- (none)
          I think they often start a project by complaining of us doing it first, to lay down a prophylactic fog-of-war.

          We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

          by Gooserock on Thu Jan 27, 2005 at 08:17:49 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Father a little wrong (none)
      Your father is leaving out a few details. There never was a military plan for Vietnam.

      Below is an excerpt from an NPR "Talk of the Nation Program" on September 1st of the this year. The guests were David Halberstam, who covered the war for The New York Times, the author of "The Best and the Brightest," and James Webb, who served in Vietnam as a platoon and company commander with the United States Marines, former secretary of the Navy and the author of several books, including "Field of Fire."

      JOAN: I predate all the people on the--I've been listening to this--but I predate all the people on the program right now. I was in Saigon, then Indochina, in 1954 when the French were there, and that was during the period when Dien Bien Phu fell, which was the end of the French intervention there. And I talked to a lot of the French and I flew over the country and I came back on a shi--or went back on a ship with a group of French soldiers who had been in Vietnam and been in Indochina for many, many years who were dejected, who were maimed, who had all sorts of physical problems. And it was obvious to those of us--I was working for the US Information Service at that time. It was obvious to those of us that this was not a winnable war. And I don't know what our ambassador said via his cables when he contacted Washington, but all the rest of us felt this was unwinnable and we should not get involved. Now this has nothing to do with the poor men who went there and died. I mean, my heart goes out to them. But I do think that we had ample warning which we did not take.

      CONAN: David Halberstam...

      Mr. HALBERSTAM: Well, can I add something there? And that is the great--in terms of the miscalculations, in 1954, when the French were at Dien Bien Phu, there was great pressure for us to come in and help them. And the Army chief of staff at that time was one of my great heroes, General Matthew Bunker Ridgway, who had led the 82nd Airborne in World War II and had jumped behind lines, who had taken the 8th Army in Korea when it was a defeated army and, in two months, turned it around. He was chief of staff then, and he was a very hard man to con, and he sent over an army survey team to find out what it would take--let's get beyond just the rhetoric and the stuff like--what does it take? And it was a tough team and he was a very tough man to get through on a briefing. He was vicious in tearing stuff apart. It would take--and we were--just finished a very unhappy war in Korea, a very unpopular war where we didn't have, by the way, the political problems of Vietnam. It was an old-fashioned border crossing and we could apply our power appropriately, air and tanks and artillery. It would take half a million to a million men. It would take, because the infrastructure was so weak, 50 engineering battalions. It would jump the budget horrendously. It would be a huge change in drafts and in reserve call-ups, and he took--and by the way, he added at the end, unlike Korea, the indigenous population would be hostile and it would not be sympathetic as it had been in Korea. And he took that and he put it on Eisenhower's desk. Eisenhower was the president. And with that, any idea of going to Indochina, helping at Dien Bien Phu, died, and the reason was that it was...

      CONAN: David, I'm sorry, I'm going to have to cut you off because we're running out of time in this segment. We'll get back to this... Mr.

      HALBERSTAM: Yeah.

      CONAN: ...after a short break. Joan, thank you very much for the call. David Halberstam, before the break, you were talking about the French experience in...

      Mr. HALBERSTAM: We were saying about how much--I mean, that General Ridgway, as chief of staff, had put the ticket of what it would take at a very honest level in front of President Eisenhower in 1954, and no one--no one, no one--did anything comparable in 1965. I mean, what will it cost? What are the politics of it? Will our troops be effective? Will our technology, our weaponry be effective in this place? And because of that, out of that came a miscalculation, and I think was probably much harder to tell a president like Lyndon Johnson the truth once he, in effect, I think, had a sense of which way he was going to go, and everybody shaved it--instead of a high price, they shaved it, as Scotty Reston once wrote in The New York Times, like salami going incrementally in hiding the cost of it. And so we never, as a society, judged the cost in a democracy fairly and equitably as to whether it was worth going in.

      No one told Johnson the truth. Nothing about the Vietnam war was planned.

      here is the complete  Talk of the Nation Program

      You can listen to Johnson and his Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara planning the  Gulf of Tonkin's Phantom Attack.

      Your dad should get a kick out of listening to the reason 58,000 Americans died it was So Johnson could be more macho than Goldwater.

      •  The Nixon Difference (none)
        The difference between Ike in '54 and LBJ in '65 is the Ike didn't have to worry about Nixon attacking him over "who lost Vietnam?"  This fear of what would happen if he didn't fight in Vietnam was the defining issue for Johnson.

        This is not just an idle conjecture on my part. In A Grand Delusion: America's Descent Into Vietnam, Robert Mann, a long-time Senate staffer, wrote the first (and, to my knowledge, the only) political history of the Vietnam War that took the Senate into account. In my review for the Denver Post, I wrote:

        Mann's treatment of the early Cold War era makes it clear just how strong Senate influence was in establishing the basic parameters that later led to presidential secrecy and duplicity....

        A majority of Senate Republicans, still isolationist at least as far as Europe was concerned, voted against NATO and the Marshall Plan, but enthusiastically rallied around Joe McCarthy's anti-communist crusade against the Truman Administration, especially after the Korean War began....

        The Truman-Eisenhower prelude takes up almost a third of the book, but it is time extremely well spent. Lyndon Johnson's Senate leadership was defined by the struggle to reverse Democratic losses stemming from alleged softness toward communism, particularly in Asia. John Mansfield's Senate leadership was shaped in reaction to Johnson's style, as well as in deference to his role as President and party leader. By following the story through this formative period we gain unique insight into later behavior, such as the obsessive blindness that repeatedly prevented John F. Kennedy and Johnson from heeding the growing chorus of warning voices from Vietnam itself, from inside their administrations and from Capitol Hill.

        This background also serves to explain the caution and reluctance that dogged almost all the Senate doves....


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